Passion and Commitment Shine Through in Ceremonies to Mark Next Part of Calgary’s Poverty Reduction Journey

Aboriginal ceremony highlights meaningfulness of this work to aboriginal community, importance of drawing on aboriginal wisdom to create solutions

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If commitment and passion are integral elements to successfully actualizing a vision, then the crusade to exponentially shrink poverty in Calgary looks most promising.

That commitment and passion shone through in a big way last week as two ceremonies took place to mark the move of the Enough for All poverty reduction strategy from the city to a community agency, the non-profit, Vibrant Communities Calgary.

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Gael McLeod (Vibrant Communities Calgary board member) , Geoff Kneller (general manager of the Calgary Housing Company), Franco Savoia (director of Vibrant Communities Calgary)

On Jan. 9, a traditional aboriginal ceremony took place to commemorate the transition with a set of traditional rituals. The gathering highlighted the meaningfulness of this work to the First Nations community. It was also a call to weave in Aboriginal wisdom in order to truly change the city’s poverty story.

“A deep connectedness to the spiritual and the natural world provide a unique lens which we could incorporate in our approach to all poverty reduction, not just when discussing issues specifically related to the experience of the Aboriginal community,” Vibrant Communities Calgary team member Kathryn Cormier writes in an article about the ceremony.

The Enough for All strategy includes a specific commitment to aboriginal poverty reduction, aspiring to see aboriginal poverty rates match those of Calgary’s overall poverty rate as well as Aboriginal peoples earning an income equal to that of the rest of the Calgary workforce by 2023.

The Jan. 9 ceremony was led by Elder Leonard Bastien and Grant Little Mustache. It acknowledged all the work, passion and intention poured into the poverty reduction effort to date, as well as a blessing on Vibrant Communities Calgary.

On Jan. 15, about 200 Calgarians gathered for another transition ceremony at the Calgary YWCA.

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The Memorandum of Agreement transferring the Enough for All strategy to Vibrant Communities Calgary.

With presentations by Mayor Naheed Nenshi, United Way CEO and president Lucy Miller and other key actors in the Enough for All strategy work, a resounding tone of commitment and passion for the work was also evident there.

Calgary resident Bill Phipps has been actively engaged in addressing poverty issues for more than 40 years. His wife, Carolyn Pogue, is an active member of the United Church Child Wellbeing Initiative, which aims to eliminate child poverty in Alberta.

Now retired, he’s been on the periphery of the Enough for All work, but notes he could clearly see and feel the promising energy about it at the Jan. 15 event.

“I think there is tremendous possibility in this,” says Bill.

“There is obvious concern among a significant number of people about the level of poverty in Calgary. Some of them are well connected and also bring a lot of skills and expertise.”

Poverty in this province in particular is just not justified given the wealth that exists there, adds Bill.

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Mayor Naheed Nenshi signing the Memorandum of Agreement transferring the Enough for All strategy to Vibrant Communities Calgary.

“I live in a neighbourhood downtown where there are million-dollar houses going on every block. . . . This is a wealthy place. Almost any other jurisdiction in the world would envy Alberta.”

While he sees the importance of a community-led effort such as is the Enough for All strategy represents, Bill is a strong proponent of engaging provincial government to take a lead in fixing some of the core issues related to poverty, such as providing affordable housing, and ensuring living wages.

Vibrant Communities Calgary is encouraging all Calgarians to read through the Enough for All strategy document, and share it with their circles. Look out for opportunities to get involved with the strategy in the coming weeks. To learn more, click here.

Related story:
‘It Feels Like We’ve Sparked a Movement’

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